Episode 19: Deborah Gardner: Make Your Big Meeting Really Matter

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In this episode of The Manage Your Message Podcast host Jim Karrh welcomes Deborah Gardner, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) as well as active keynote speaker. Deborah knows the business of meetings and events from all sides – especially in making sure they achieve their strategic purposes.

The meetings business is huge; nearly two million meetings are held each year in the U.S. The most important organizational meetings tend to support some mandate for change.

To begin, Jim recounts for listeners something he heard Deborah say in person at a recent conference session: “I can’t think of any significant relationship with a client or colleague that hasn’t been built on face-to-face conversations or meetings.” Deborah notes that meetings continue to be important–even in a more mobile and digital business world–precisely because of their unique capacity to build relationships, create culture, and produce change. As just one data point, more than 90 percent of business executives believe that face-to-face meetings generate more engagement.

Recent experience has shown that virtual meetings don’t necessarily replace in-person meetings. Deborah cites research that says virtual meetings actually make people want to engage in face-to-face conversations.

The conversation then moves into the CMP title Deborah holds, the role of an events professional, and how stressful that role can be. Meeting and event professionals have the fifth-most-stressful job in America. They have to be ready to deal with high expectations, security concerns, venue selection, technology, travel details, communication, recruitment, and securing the right content for the meeting.

Jim asks Deborah her opinion on how meetings are and can be used to instill organizational change. She believes that meetings can help organizations meet the needs of their employees and streamline career development, as experienced people take on new roles and others are brand-new to the organization and are still learning the culture. Among the trends she is seeing in meetings are: a focus on team building, which stems from more generational diversity in the work place; confidence building, m; and health and wellness.

At the end of the interview, Jim asks Deborah about methods during meetings actually work to instill change and development after those meetings are over. She criticizes the recent trend of ‘pumping up’ participants only to deflate later when they are back in their office. Instead of this, events must have lasting effects and translate into the actual day-to-day activities, especially regarding leadership.

To sum up, organizations’ meetings have the greatest impact when they:

  • Aren’t just for dispensing information
  • Facilitate conversations and immediate application of new skills
  • Use face-to-face and virtual elements in a complementary way
  • Build the confidence levels of participants



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